Competency L

Demonstrates understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature

Introduction

Conducting research in any field not only demonstrates an interest in the topic, but an investment in the field’s future. When published, whether through scholarly or reviewed journals or through personal blog posts, properly-executed research can enlighten professionals and empower them to do better work, backed up by best practices and facts. Research, however, is not just the act of having an idea, writing it down, and sharing it with others. In fact, research must be completed with care and diligence.

Varying methods are appropriate for various intents behind research and other circumstances such as the environment, the audience, and the population, if any, that is being researched. For many researchers, cross sectional studies are more appropriate and feasible than longitudinal studies. Cross sectional studies take place all at once, which frees the researcher of the arguably harsher constraints of longitudinal studies, which occur over long periods of time. Some longitudinal studies happen somewhat naturally. With a good integrated library system, performing a study on the popularity of a given set of books with the naturally-occurring longitudinal data of checkouts should be easy. Determining the effectiveness of a particular library program in children’s interest in reading as adults, meanwhile, would be far more difficult. The resources to do these type of studies are often not available at libraries for the purpose of improving service to the community. Instead, professional researchers, such as those at universities, and non-library professionals and organizations may perform longitudinal studies with more frequency.

Research studies may also be distinguished as either qualitative or quantitative. While qualitative studies rely primarily on interviews with or in-depth looks at a few people or objects of study, quantitative studies focus on data in statistics resulting from tools such as surveys, ideally administered to a large section of a population. Ultimately, neither is necessarily better than the other. The confines in which a research study must be done and its purpose will be the best guides for determining whether a qualitative or quantitative study is most appropriate for any given research study.

In the typical public library setting, either method can be used effectively and in both formal and informal ways. Annual surveys sent out, perhaps through the local government, can give insight to what the majority of a population feels about a library. This would be excellent use of a relatively formal qualitative study. On the other hand, a quantitative and informal study may find its place in brief and casual discussions with individual program attendees after an event. The information gathered need not be published to still be a study of sorts and worthwhile. Anything that might be collected can be used to adjust programs, services, and materials to better suit the library’s service population.

When opting to write a formal report of research findings, especially with an intent to publish, literature reviews provide both the readers and the researcher with background on the topic. Researchers must have a solid understanding of what work has already been done on their topic. This is true whether the researcher plans to disprove, prove, or expand upon existing research. Understanding the history of a topic can guide how a research study is designed, what specific subjects will be addressed, and what recommendations the researchers make at the end of their paper. The best research to use in a literature review is that which has been published in scholarly, reviewed research journals. However, there may be some publications outside of that scope, such as in professional or casual magazines, that are appropriate. Depending on the depth of the existing research, varying degrees of history will be required within a literature review.

Evidence

LIBR 285 Research Study Evaluation

A review of Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen reveals a research study primarily conducted through literature review, interviews, and critical thinking. By considering the methods Cohen used in her project, I demonstrate not only an understanding of the various methods, but the ability to suggest improvements on existing research plans. One criticism is the lack of diversity in Cohen’s interview subjects. This assignment also applies lessons learned from Cohen’s book from a research methods perspective to the place of research studies in libraries. As the assignment examines research methods, research study design, and literature reviews, I feel this is sufficient evidence for demonstration of Competency L.

 

LIBR 200 Literature Review

This literature review on readers of young adult literature in the public library looks at readers of all ages who enjoy young adult fiction. With a strong definition to begin with, the paper expands beyond the expected audience of young adult to include adults, and therefore offers a more comprehensive look at fans of young adult literature and some of the controversy therein. Drawing from all kinds of publications, this assignment demonstrates my ability to synthesize research literature as described in Competency L.

 

Conclusion

Although not all library professionals may conduct formal or official research studies as a part of their career, an understanding of how research studies work has its place in Library and Information Science. With a solid grasp on research and all of its components, library professionals can more effectively deliver services, materials, and programs to their clients. Furthermore, understanding research studies can enhance evaluations of all kinds and sizes throughout a library professional’s career, making them a valuable and dynamic part of any library staff.